A Touch of Summer in Fall on Long Island

In the spring and fall, agility trials are so plentiful around here that you might have a choice of several venues and locations on any given weekend. This past weekend there was Skyline’s CPE trial in Stony Point and two AKC trials – a small one on Long Island and a larger one in eastern PA. Door #1, door #2 or door #3? The CPE trial was the closest and being a Skyline member I rarely pass up a club trial, but I’m prioritizing on AKC these days so I broke with tradition and went with door #2 – the Long Island trial.

I’m not at all sorry I did! While participants at the other trials ended up slogging through a cross between agility and mud wrestling, we had great footing and not a drop of rain. If I were to be picky, I would have preferred it to have been about 10 degrees cooler and a little less humid, but it overall we lucked out big-time. A great judge and some fun courses rounded out the weekend.

Big news of the weekend was that Raven got her AXJ on Saturday on a very technical course which didn’t yield a lot of Q ribbons! We had some weebly-wobbly lines which cost us time, but her short body and responsiveness make her fun to handle on that kind of course.

I don’t always bother to take a toy when we win one, but I couldn’t resist that one – it’s a Halloween bat and it’s too cute!

I think Jayda would have done well on that course too, had she not taken down the triple early on. She was feeling rather stressed on Saturday and I think she was taking off early, because she ticked the triple on her Standard run also. After she dropped the bar, I decided to try a blind cross in part of the course – I was really itching to try it, but would never have had the guts if there was a Q on the line. It almost worked – I didn’t give her long legs quite enough room and pushed her to the wrong side of the jump. But she took the cue nicely and didn’t even look at the off course tunnel – had I stepped a little deeper into the pocket and given her the room she needed, it would have been really nice – that move is filed away for future use :).

It was a jumpers kind of weekend. Sunday’s course was promised to be a “wahoo” course, and it was, with lots of running for dogs and handlers alike. On Sunday Jayda was much more relaxed and this time BOTH girls Q’d in JWW. Raven started out very sluggish (she’s not a fan of hot weather) but picked up speed about 4 obstacles into the course, JUST squeaking by on time for her first MXJ leg. Jayda finished the weekend with a beautiful, attentive 1st place run, beating Raven’s time for her 4th MJP leg and the most points she’s ever earned in a Jumpers run! Wahoo, Jayda :)!

So the new Family Challenge is on: Which sister will get her Master Jumpers title first? Stay tuned!

My Clever Girls

It finally stopped snowing … I think! Flowers are blooming, outdoor agility trials are doable again. Spring? Maybe, just maybe!

Redbud Tree


At the risk of boring you with Yet Another Stupid, Boring Ribbon Photo, I’m going to post one anyway. Here are the spoils from our first 2 (one day each) AKC trials so far this year: We do pretty well in AKC … when we actually ENTER some TRIALS :). What a concept!

Jayda and Raven - AKC, Spring 2011

Jayda finished her OAP, got her first OFP Q and her first 2 Q’s in Ex B JWW. As of July 1 she will have 6 PACH points – look out world, only 744 to go :)! Seriously, I want her MJP/MXP and think a PAX is doable. I’m not ruling OUT a PACH (anything’s possible), but unless we can pick up a LOT of points in standard it could get awfully pricey chasing those points. Then again, if there’s one thing to be said about Jayda, it’s that she’s full of surprises. We’ll see.

Raven got 2 Q’s in Open JWW to finish her OAJ and join her sister in Excellent – yay! She also got her first Novice Standard Q – which was a pleasant surprise, considering I uh – only got serious about teaching her the broad jump and the chute about 2-3 weeks before the trial :)! Her 2nd attempt the chute was a little twisted – she could have gotten through it, but she didn’t THINK she could and gave up. Back to the drawing board on chutes, and mental note to check the chute before we run and call for a “chute fluffer” to fix it if necessary!

I’m starting to taper off NADAC and CPE to focus more on our goals in AKC. Not leaving either venue completely, but I’m doing NADAC mostly for Bryce these days, and CPE … I want to finish Jayda’s C-ATCH2 in the next year (9 Q’s away) and her C-ATCH3 eventually, but CPE will become purely a winter sport for us (hard to resist 4-6 trials in our own training building!). I have to say that now that my dogs are all past the green dog stage I find CPE trials a combination of exhausting, expensive, and … dare I say it … kinda boring. Might go back to USDAA one of these days or try UKI, but Jayda’s not really a USDAA kind of girl.

Agility Venue Bashing

I’ve been playing this game for quite a while now (since 1994 – yikes!) and one of the things that’s always annoyed me is agility venue bashing or “neener, neener – my venue’s better than yours.”

AKC, USDAA, NADAC, CPE … I’ve done well in all of them through the years, and I’m game for trying anything new that comes along. When you “cross train” a lot, the first thing you learn is that every venue is different and they all have their pros and cons. Believe me, I can be a world-class whiner and could come up with a pretty good list of gripes about any of them! But to label one “better” than another? Or even more ridiculous, assume that the teams that participate in a particular venue are less skilled than those who compete primarily in another?

I spend a lot of entry fees in two venues that seem to bear the brunt of this attitude: NADAC and CPE. Heck – even NADAC people turn up their noses at CPE :)! Why do I participate in them?

When I started out with my girls, those were absolutely the right venues for us at the time. NADAC’s open courses and smooth flow gave Jayda the confidence and speed she so badly needed. “Sloppy handling” is a common accusation from non-NADAC participants, but I have to say that if anything, NADAC forces me to be very conscious of my handling – a bobble or a spin or even an inefficient line can so easily put you over time (even with a “fast” dog!)

CPE is awesome for babydogs – being able to do short courses like Fullhouse and Colors is a fabulous middle step to decreasing reinforcement density in a genuine trial atmosphere. Both venues are also very accomodating for semi-retired veteran dogs – my old guy has plenty of games he can still enjoy SAFELY in both venues.

Last Spring I went from weeks of nothing but CPE and NADAC to a 3 day AKC trial where Jayda qualified all 3 days in jww – 2x 1st place in Open and again the next day as a move-up on a pretty tight/technical Excellent course – one of only 3 “A” dogs to qualify. Damn, those out-of-control NADAC dogs and their sloppy handlers :).

ARE there teams running in NADAC who lack the necessary control for other venues? Yes. ARE there teams in CPE who “get by” with gawdawful handling and a lot of luck? Of course there are. But each venue brings it’s own particular “flavor” to the table and if you look at them with an open mind and a POSITIVE ATTITUDE, you’ll realize that each one offers something unique that can enhance you and your dog’s teamwork and skills.

At the end of the day it’s the relationship with your dog and how you perform as a team that matters, right? So please don’t assume my dogs and I are “less-than” because I choose to play in a different venue!